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Nalanda is the site of one of the oldest universities in the world, built by the Guptas in the 5th century. Its reputation as a center of learning dates back even further to the first millennium BC. The Buddha first came here to study philosophy with local gurus, later attracting his own disciples. Another famous Buddhist philosopher, Nagarjuna, began his studies at Nalanda in the 3rd century, but the university itself wasn’t inaugurated until two centuries later. Scholars at Nalanda pursued studies in both Buddhist and Vedic philosophy, logic, and medicine. In subsequent centuries as Nalanda’s fame increased exponentially, so did its size. New buildings soared to the height of nine stories, and with the aid of King Harsha of Kannauj, Nalanda amassed a library of over nine million manuscripts. By the 13th century, successive waves of Muslim invaders had chased out all the students and reduced the library collection to cinders. Time and neglect took their toll, and excavations beginning in the middle of the 19th century uncovered extensive ruins. It is now possible to walk among the remains of nearly a dozen monasteries. Which housed 3000 students and teachers when Hsuan Tsang visited in the 7th century, but which are now home only to meandering goats and nesting birds.

The remains of an impressively tall main temple are at the south entrance. Climbing to the top, the view extends northward where the monasteries on the right face the temple on the left. A smaller temple to the right of the monasteries is sheathed in 6th century wall-paintings of the Hindu pantheon. A museum there houses excavated relics, including Buddha images. Vated relics, including Buddha images, The Archaeological Survey’s guidebook, presents a more extensive account of the excavation.

Map of Nalanda

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